Thursday, January 27, 2011

Over to the Dark Side

Our five-year-old son had entered that retro phase of his life.

And by retro, I mean everything that was cool when his parents were young is cool once again.

Such as Star Wars and LEGOs.

And when you put them together you get Star Wars LEGOs. Every young boy’s dream. Which quickly turned into his parents’ worst nightmare.

“Holy cow!” my husband yelled. All heads in the toy aisle swung in our direction as if he’d screamed, “Hey, that lady is naked!” Which, no, has...never...happened...before. So move along.

He gestured toward the no fewer than 356 boxes on the shelves and said, “There are a million of the damn things.”

“Yep,” I agreed. “They moved past the two-color, two-shape style a long time ago. Now, they all come in kits.”

“Kits?” my husband said slowly and looked up and down the aisle. “You can’t buy a box of plain ones anymore?”
Welcome to the 21st century, my friend. It sucks.

I consoled him by patting him lightly on the back and said, “Doesn’t matter. Little Big Guy has requested something waaaaay more difficult than plain old LEGOs.”

Our son had asked Santa Claus in his carefully written letter to please, please, please bring him a specific Star Wars LEGO shuttle.

So here we were, Santa’s Elves, hunting in the toy aisle three days before the holiday, searching for the Holy Grail of LEGO kits.

I pawed through the boxes until finally finding the one our little boy had his heart set on. I reached out and picked it up only to hear my husband gasp in alarm. He reached over, pointed at the box and screeched, “Is that how many pieces are in the box?!”

I looked down to see the number “8096” written on the front. I chuckled as I walked away, “No, dummy, that’s just the model number, not the number of pieces inside. It’s much less than that. Believe me.”

OK. I lied. Fast forward to Christmas morning, and our little boy was in LEGO heaven, clutching the box to his chest and yelling, “We gotta put this together. Like right now! Right now, right now, right now!”

“OK, settle down or I get out the Ritalin,” I suggested. So we sat down at the table, opened the box, tipped it up and half the world fell out.

“Oh. My. God,” I said, jaw dropping at the number of items littering the table.

My husband peered over my shoulder and smirked, “Look who’s the dummy now.”

I reached over and picked up the instruction guide, only to read “Manual 1 of 2” written on the front.

I held it up to my husband and said, “Manual 1 of 2? Manual 1...of...2?! Are you friggin’ kidding me?!”
And, before you ask, no, it wasn’t like Manual 1 was, oh, 8 pages and Manual 2 was 6 pages.


Each one of them rivaled the length of a doctoral dissertation in aerodynamics. I thumbed through the pages, catching glimpses of diagrams, instructions, codes and other assorted information that only a MIT graduate would comprehend.

OK, so the aerospace industry bust from years ago? I know where all the out-of-work engineers ended up.

Screwing with American parents just because they can.

Part of me wanted to throw in the towel right there, chuck the plastic pieces into the fireplace and be done with it.

But then I caught sight of my little boy’s excited face. I sighed. Turned to page 1. And got to work.

Three days, 10 power bars and two boxes of Band-Aids later we finally had the damn thing built.

I basked in triumph as I gently placed the finished shuttle in my little boy’s hands, as if passing along a treasure of great and lasting importance.

He oohed and aahed then ran away to play. All was right in his little world, and I, as Mom, had made it so.
I rock.

And it was a fabulous feeling that lasted all of 4.2 seconds.


I dropped my head into my hands and sighed as little footsteps ran toward me. I looked up to see my son holding his new shuttle, which was - once again - in 8,096 pieces.

And over to the Dark Side I went.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dad

My dad would have celebrated his 65th birthday today. Would have. But didn't.

Instead, he's forever young. Having been taken from us almost four years ago after a fatal heart attack one hot, August morning.

My dad taught me many things. About honesty. Trying your best. Never giving up. Take the high road whenever possible...but that doesn't mean you always have to like it.

It's OK to get pissed. It's OK to get angry. It's OK to feel small in a big world sometimes. But sitting around feeling sorry for yourself? No way. Get up. Change direction.

Family is #1. It means unconditional love. It means giving advice that might not be your favorite answer but is typically the right one. It means making sacrifices. It means don't hold grudges (I still have trouble with that one).

My dad. A quiet man who lived a quiet life. And is missed more today - every day - since he died.

Happy Birthday, Dad. Semper Fi.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


You know when you do something so monumentally stupid you immediately think, “What did I just do? I’m an idiot. No. I’m worse than an idiot. I’m the person other idiots point at and say, ‘You, ma’am, are an idiot.”

...Oh, my. My husband’s gonna kill me.

And so this story begins….

“You can’t tell anybody,” I ordered. “It’s our little secret. OK?”

I looked down into the chocolate brown eyes of our Golden Retriever who looked back at me with such love and longing my heart broke a little.

Of course, her devotion could have been directed at the peanut butter treat I was holding in my hand that very moment and nothing to do with the heartfelt loyalty a four-legged friend feels for her human companion.

I know the truth. As soon as she gets this treat she’s gonna rat me out. I shrugged and tossed it to her anyway. At least I’d have one friend after my husband returned home to witness what I had done to his kitchen.


I was gonna make homemade cinnamon popcorn. So I melted the ingredients together in a saucepan on the stove until it was a smooth, creamy mix of cinnamon, sugar, butter and corn syrup.

In the past, I made a mess tossing the coating onto popcorn-filled cookie sheets. So this time I decided I would place the popcorn into a bag then pour the cinnamon mixture on top. Close the bag. Mush it around a little until the popcorn was perfectly coated and VOILA! 

Because - you know - using French in the kitchen makes everything taste better. Except frog legs. I fail to see how anything can make amphibians taste good. The ick factor is much too high. No offense, Kermit.
But I digress. 

Smiling to myself because of my new-found genius, I dumped the popcorn into the bag, picked up the saucepan and gently tipped the hot, candy coating into the bag.

And then time stopped.

And it was there - in that frozen moment - I realized my fatal mistake, that I had completely ignored all laws of physics, barreling through life without thought to materials science and the melting point of plastic.

Yep, that’s right.

I had used a PLASTIC bag.

So imagine if you will what happens when a person pours a batch of hot, boiling, candy coating into a plastic bag.

I watched in horror as a thick, pinky red wave of ooze flooded the stovetop. The popcorn – the few pieces that managed to score a bit of candy coating before the rest made its streaming escape from the bag – plopped out to land in globs on the floor, the cabinets and – oh, yes – the dog.

I’d like to say that I didn’t panic. That I kept cool. Like Fonzie cool. Or MacGuyver. Who, by the way, would have fashioned a proper popcorn-coating device using just two paperclips, a roll of duct tape and a Pringles can, but this wasn’t the time to lolly-gag.

So, no. I freaked.

“OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD!” I screamed and threw the saucepan into the sink where it landed with a loud thud and probably cracked the ceramic. But what did I care? I had bigger problems. Mount Vesuvius had erupted in my kitchen and the lava flow was threatening all the villagers.

I looked at my other hand and the only thing remaining was the zip top of the aforementioned plastic bag.
Everything else had been melted into oblivion. So I tossed it - along with the thought of any future kitchen privileges - over my shoulder and out of my mind.

“First things first!” I hollered. I pointed to the dog, “You. Start licking! We got 10 minutes until your dad gets home!”

I grabbed the paper towels, unwound half the roll into one big blob then threw it onto the stovetop...and quickly discovered there weren’t enough paper towels.

In. The. World.

“Plan B!” I screamed at the dog, which had pink-colored popcorn stuck all over her muzzle. But before I could think of what Plan B might actually entail, my husband walked through the door.


Now, I’d like to say I regretted my next action, but life is tough. Sometimes you just gotta save yourself.
So I pointed at the dog and yelled, “She did it!”

Then I ran. VOILA!